March 21

旨味 (うまみ) : Umami / Savory

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How to read this series

Each article augments Japanese words throughout its text. The vocabulary throughout the text is related to cooking, food, and flavor. Below each block of text will be a drop down menu that contains the meaning and reading of each word, Like this:

和食(わしょく) is a cuisine loved by people all over the world. Yet, most people don't know how to cook 和食 because they don't understand the 食材料(しょくざいりょう)in Japanese recipes.

Section Vocabulary

和食(わしょく)

"Wa-shoku" – Japanese cuisine

和:わ:Japanese style; harmony

食:しょく:eat; food


食材料(しょくざいりょう)

"shokuzai-ryō"– ingredients

食:しょく:food; eat

材:ざい:lumber

料:りょう:materials

This dropdown menu can be used in your preferred study method. We recommend that you attempt to read through each section first without revealing the word meanings, and make educated guesses based on context clues. Then, reveal the word meanings and read the section once more using the drop list for reference.

This is of course completely up to you, as you might prefer to read each drop list first, before reading each section. There are no right or wrong ways to use this tool, although we DO suggest that you use some form of memorization. So try to keep the words hidden for as long as possible, or go off of memory or context for as long as you can, and don't be afraid to read a section more than once!

あぁぁぁぁぁ、うまっ!(That which is deeply satisfying)

There's nothing quite like a 鍋(なべ)party after a long day of shredding up the Japanese Alps on a winter holiday. The Nagano winter is the kind that chills you to your bones. Only a hot 温泉(おんせん) and a big bowl of 鍋だし can get you warm after a full day of snowboarding. So after a full day of tearing through fresh Hakuba powder, you and your friends pile into the local スーパー , and fill your baskets with as much booze and 食材料(しょくざいりょう)as you can carry.

You and your friends in Hakuba

You and your friends in the hot spring

Back at your cabin, you chop up stalk of ねぎ、a pack of 椎茸(しいたけ), a thicc (with two C's) bunch of にら, and an assortment of other items. As you sip on a cold beer, you fill the 鍋 with water and slide in a hefty sheet of 昆布(こんぶ)to reconstitute it. Next goes in several large packs of 鶏肉もも(とりにくもも), a very generous splash of 酒(さけ), and a couple slices of しょうが. You fire up the burner, bring it to a boil, and let the ingredients inside mingle before turning the heat down, throwing in the 野菜, and closing the lid. 

Soon, the whole room is filled with a savory 香り(かおり), and the rest of the snow goons gather 'round to eat. You take turns spooning the contents into お椀(おわん), before taking your first sip of the 旨味 infused 出汁(だし).

Ahhhhhhhhh... 天国(てんごく)だー!The broth is rich, yet subtle – not too 塩っぱい(しょっぱい), yet deeply satisfying. You go back for seconds, then thirds, and then fourths until your stomach feels like it might burst. This is living!

Section Vocabulary

鍋(なべ) 

"nabe" – pot; kettle


温泉(おんせん)

"onsen" – natural hot spring

温:おん:warm

泉:せん:spring; fountain


スーパー

"sūpā" – supermarket


材料(しょくざいりょう)

"shokuzai-ryō"– ingredients

食:しょく:food; eat

材:ざい:lumber

料:りょう:materials


ねぎ

"negi" – onion


椎茸(しいたけ)

"shītake" – Japanese mushroom variant

椎:しい:oak; mallet

茸:たけ:mushroom


にら

"nira" – garlic chives


昆布(こんぶ)

"konbu" – edible Japanese kelp, usually dehydrated

昆:こん:descendants; insect

布:ぶ:linen; cloth


鶏もも(とりもも)

"tori niku momo" – chicken thigh

鶏:とり:chicken

肉:にく:meat; flesh

もも:thigh


酒(さけ)

"sake" – Japanese rice wine


しょうが(生姜)

"shōga" – ginger

しょう:生:raw; life

が:姜:ginger


野菜(やさい)

"yasai" – vegetable

野:や:plains; field; rustic

菜:さい:vegetables; greens


香り(かおり)

"kaori" – aromatic; fragrance


お椀(おわん)

"o-wan" – small serving bowl

椀:わん:wooden bowl


出汁(だし)

"dashi" – soup; broth

出・る:で・る:to give off, leave, or let out

汁:しる:soup, juice, or broth


天国(てんごく)

"tengoku" – heaven

天:てん:heaven

国:ごく:country; nation


塩っぱい(しょっぱい)

"shoppai" – salty (adjective)

The power of 旨味 (umami)

鍋 is the ultimate all-in-one, stick-to-your-bones, warm your soul winter dish. It's great in a pinch, low effort when you're spent, and stupid easy to make. It's also a fantastic entry-level dish if you're new to the 台所(だいどころ) and aren't yet confident in more advanced techniques. What could be simpler than mixing a few different 調味料(しょうみりょう) together in a clay pot of boiling water, cutting up a bunch of 野菜, and throwing it all together with some 肉(にく) or 海鮮(かいせん), and letting the 出汁 do the rest of the 味付け(あじつけ)for you?

Yet, as simple as it is, there's a lot more going on in that 出汁 than meets the eye. The magic lies in a small amino acid called "glutamate". Foods such as 昆布, 鶏肉(とりにく), and 椎茸 have an abundance of it, and when we eat them, we experience this 味(あじ) as 旨味.

There's a lot of confusion around what umami is, probably because of words like "glutamate" and "amino acids" used to explain it. If chemistry doesn't whet your appetite, then fear not – we'll keep things simple for now. In layman's terms, 旨味 is the natural 出汁 that comes out of foods rich in it. This makes sense if you look at these kanji:

出・る:で・る:to give off, leave, or let out

汁:しる:soup, juice, or broth

So 出汁 is the broth or juice that comes out of a food, and 出汁 is rich in 旨味. Unsurprisingly, 和食(わしょく) leans heavily on 旨味 for some of its most characteristic 味. In a way, 旨味 isn't so much an ingredient you add in to a recipe, so much as it's something that you draw out of the foods that comprise it. There are certain 調味料 that have a higher concentration of it, such as 醤油(しょうゆ), みそ(味噌), and みりん(味醂). However, pure 旨味 only exists in a pure form as MSG, which can only be engineered and produced in factories. (More on this later!)

Section Vocabulary

台所(だいどころ)

"dai-dokoro" – kitchen

台:だい:pedestal; a stand; counter for machines

所:どころ:place


調味料(ちょうみりょう)

"chō-mi-ryō" – condiments

調:ちょう:tune; tone; arrange

味:み:flavor; taste

料:りょう:materials; fee


肉(にく)

"niku" – meat; flesh


海鮮(かいせん)

"kaisen" – seafood

海:かい:ocean; sea

鮮:せん:fresh; vivid; clear; brilliant


味付け(あじつけ)

"aji-tsuke" – flavor development

味:あじ:flavor; taste

付け:つけ:to add; to join; to fix


味(あじ)

"aji" – flavor; taste


和食(わしょく)

"Washoku" – Japanese cuisine

和:わ:Japanese style; harmony

食:しょく:eat; food


醤油(しょうゆ)

"shōyu" – soy sauce

醤:しょう:a kind of miso

油:ゆ:oil


みそ(味噌)

"miso" – fermented soybean paste

み:味:flavor; taste

そ:噌:robust


みりん(味醂)

"mirin" – Japanese cooking wine

み:味:flavor; taste

りん:醂:bleach in water

Umami: The Fifth Taste

旨味 is officially recognized as "the 5th taste", since on a physiological level, we humans have the necessary receptors in our mouths to detect it and differentiate it from the other four: 塩味, 甘味, 酸味, and 苦味.

From an evolutionary stand point, the going theory is that we evolved to detect 旨味 in foods as a signal that we had found something high in 蛋白質(たんぱくしつ) and 栄養(えいよう), which is why it's so satisfying to our palates. Since our senses evolved for the purpose of keeping us alive long enough to pass on our genes, taste receptors which both detect and enhance the flavors of 蛋白質 rich foods really comes in handy.

Section Vocabulary

蛋白質(たんぱくしつ)

"tanpaku-shitsu" – protein

蛋:たん:egg white

白:ぱく:white

質:しつ:substance; quality


栄養(えいよう)

"eiyō" – nutrition; nutrients

栄:えい:flourish; prosperity

養:よう:foster; bring up; rear

Developing 旨味 in your cooking

There's a great variety of 調味料 that can be added to a recipe for their 旨味. These include つゆ, a lighter in color variant called 白だし(しろだし), and powdered fish stock. 味の素(あじのもと), better known in the west as "MSG" can also be used, but this is its own controversial section which we'll get to later on. Additionally, みそ(味噌)can be a fantastic source of 旨味 which doubles as a source of 塩味 (much like most 旨味 heavy 調味料).

If you want to go light on the sauce, you can always draw 旨味 OUT of a food by developing your own 出汁(だし). In 和食(わしょく), 出汁 is typically created by reconstituting specific dehydrated foods, namely: 

昆布(こんぶ)

鰹節(かつおぶし)

煮干し(にぼし)

椎茸(しいたけ)

Section Vocabulary

つゆ

"tsuyu" – pre-made bottled broth


白だし(しろ出汁)

"shiro dashi" – white broth

白:しろ:white

だ:出:to come out of

し:汁:soup; broth


powdered fish stock, such as (NIBOSHI???))



味の素(あじのもと)

"Aji no Moto" – lit. "the beginning of flavor"; brand name for MSG establish by founder and scientist Dr. Kikunae Ikeda

味:あじ:

素:もと:


鰹節(かつおぶし)

"katsuo-bushi" – sliced dried bonito

鰹:かつお:bonito

節:ぶし:season; period; occasion


煮干し(にぼし)

"niboshi" – small dried sardines

煮:に:boil

干・し:ぼ・し:dried

Alternatively, you might choose to incorporate certain foods into a recipe that are already naturally high in 旨味. While not necessarily specific to 和食, examples of foods naturally high in 旨味 include meats such as beef and chicken, shellfish such as shrimp and clams, and produce such as tomatoes, avocados, onions, and sweet potatoes. Aged cheeses are also a fantastic source of 旨味.

The Dubious History of 旨味 and 味の素

旨味 is so interwoven with Japan's culinary history that the romanized "umami" is used internationally to denote it. For good reason too – it was a Japanese scientist who originally discovered it!

旨味 was first officially discovered in 1908 by a Japanese scientist named Dr. Kikunae Ikeda (池田 菊苗、いけだ きくなえ). As the story goes, Dr. Ikeda's ワイフ (waifū) made such a mean 出汁 that he made it his scientific mission to figure out why it was so tasty. She told him that all the magic was in the 昆布(こんぶ)and the 鰹節, and so he began to study these ingredients in his lab. He successfully extracted something called "glutamic acid" contained in the 昆布, which when combined with other complementary sources of 旨味, greatly enhances flavor. 

Dr. Kikunae Ikeda

Glutamic Acid / Glutamate

"Glutamic acid" sounds all sciencey, but it's actually really important in understanding what the hell this mystery meat of a flavor profile is. Glutamic acid, also known as "glutamate" is an amino acid found in almost any food that contains protein. Our bodies actually produce this stuff naturally, but it's also obtained through food.

Glutamic Acid

Amino Acids

Amino acids are the chemicals that make up proteins. You break 蛋白質 down, you get amino acids. Simple as that. There are 22 different kinds, and 8 of them can't be made by the human body. These are called "essential amino acids" because we can't live without eating them. The other 14 amino acids are called "non-essential amino acids" because our bodies produce them naturally, and can also be obtained in the food that we eat. Glutamic acid is a non-essential amino acid.

MSG / Monosodium Glutamate

MSG is what happens when you take one of those fancy glutamic acids and you knock its molecules loose making something called "unbound glutamate". Then, you take that unbound glutamate, and you bind a single sodium molecule to it. Glutamate prefers to be bound to something, as that way it's more stable. The sodium both stabilizes it, and makes it more tasty.

Or... something along those lines. We aren't chemists here, but read on for our opinion on the matter.

The MSG Controversy

MSG is among the most demonized substances in the world of 料理(りょうり), along side sugar, and sweetener, and gluten, and carbs, and... plants... and meat... and also soy, and...

Damn it, it's a marvel we haven't starved ourselves as a species with all of this collective food phobia we've given in to. In any case, MSG, coined by Dr. Ikeda as 味の素is one of the many お化け(おばけ) of the 台所which strikes fear into the delicate hearts of uninformed foodies everywhere.

It's been demonized after years and years of adding it in copious amounts to every vaguely food-like substance sold in the middle aisles of North American grocery stores everywhere. Too much of it makes you sick, gives you heart problems, spikes your blood pressure, makes you tired, causes cancer, seduces your wife, freezes your assets, spirits your children away in the night. 味の素 has become a bonafide culinary boogeyman that strikes fear in the hearts of vegans and carnivores alike. And yet, we humans can't seem to get enough of it (especially when we don't know it's been cooked into our food).

Section Vocabulary

料理(りょうり)

"ryōri" – cooking

料:りょう:materials; fee

理:り:logic; reason; arrangement


お化け(おばけ)

"obake" – monster

化け:ばけ:transforming; to take another form

We're here to talk about 旨味, and the full answer to this question is the subject of entire books. We are NOT chemists here at Risu Press, and we're not giving any dietary or medical advice. We know Japan, and the Japanese language, and a bit about a whole lot of other stuff, including home cooking. That's it. But with that said, we did our research for this article, and this is what we found, in a nutshell:

MSG is neither great for you, nor is it the boogeyman it's made out to be. It IS very divisive, in that people either swear by it, or they avoid it like the plague. Originally, Dr. Ikeda produced it under the name 味の素 so that the lower economic class of the time, who generally only had access to rice and vegetables, would have access to a cheap flavor enhancer to sprinkle over their food. It then made its way to China, and then the United States around the 1930s, primarily through US food products and military rations. 

The so-called "Chinese restaurant syndrome"

As US borders opened up, East Asian immigrants began to set up restaurant-based livelihoods in the west. While they were not the first group to use MSG in their food products, they were arguably the most transparent about it. Americans don't enjoy a reputation of being the most tolerant of different races and cultures, and so MSG became an easy way to vilify their Asian-American neighbors.

This xenophobic aversion to MSG was really ignited by a 1968 letter to the editor of the New England Journal of Medicine. The letter was written by a Chinese-American Doctor named Robert Ho Man Kwok, and describes the symptoms he supposedly experienced after consuming American Chinese food. These symptoms included numbness of certain body parts, heart palpitations, and general unease. This sparked public concern, as more and more people wrote to the medical journal claiming to have experienced the same thing.

The irony of this phenomenon is that according to this video by home cook and food Youtuber Adam Ragusea, the particular editorial section of this magazine was a forum not unlike our modern day reddit. Doctors would write to each other informally, talk shop, and even troll each other with parody articles about fake diseases and syndromes. Still, Americans love a good panic, and the rest as they say, is history.

A year later in 1969, American scientists followed up on this public interest by carrying out a series of "experiments" with remarkably faulty methods. According to this video by Youtuber Yara Elmjouie they began the experiments with the bias that MSG was bad, used extremely high doses of it, and failed to use placebos properly. In one study, they injected MSG under the skin of mice which caused them to develop brain lesions! As Yara and his doctor friend point out in the video, no human would ever consume MSG in this way.

This doesn't mean that MSG is all sunshine and roses. Snack manufacturers around the world cover their products in it, which explains why a bag of potato chips is so hard to put down. It's not great that a bag of Doritos gives our brains the same satisfaction as a large hunk of nutrient-rich meat, or a vitamin-packed soup broth. The more junk we eat, the worse off we are.

Depending on which article you read or video you watch, you'll get a different answer on the matter. Anyone with enough media clout and a few letters after his or her name can confidently present an opinion as a fact. It's easy enough to back it up with a bunch of post-hoc rationalizations in the form of cherry-picked, inconclusive science articles.

The bottom line on umami and MSG

Love it or fear it, use it or don't – that's entirely up to you. It makes 卵焼き(たまごやき) taste damn good, but Doritos are also covered in it, and they're bad for you (sorry). The whole point of this series is to understand 和食 through the framework of words and concepts in their original Japanese semantics, and hopefully use all that to become a better home cook. 旨味 in its natural form can be extracted from whole foods that don't require factories and science labs to produce. In the art of 味付け, using 味の素 is really just a short cut, and will neither make you a better cook, nor more fluent in Japanese.

We generally leave it out of our cooking, but we won't avoid eating a bowl of ラーメン or some 中華料理(ちゅうかりょうり)if it happens to contain 味の素 (because it almost always does).


Section Vocabulary

卵焼き(たまごやき)

"tamago-yaki" – Japanese rolled omelette

卵:たまご:egg(s)   *same meaning as 玉子, represented by one kanji

焼・き:や・き:to grill; to roast


ラーメン

"rāmen" – ...ramen


中華料理(ちゅうかりょうり)

"chūka ryōri" – Chinese food

中:ちゅう:middle; center

華:か:Chinese culture; splendor; glorious

料:りょう:materials; fee

理:り:logic; reason; arrangement

Feature Flavor: 旨味

The word うまい has different meanings, and is represented by different kanji. They all mean approximately the same things, and vary mostly in subtle nuance. As a flavor profile, it's written as 旨い(うまい)which is its 訓読み(くんよみ)reading. Its 音読み(おんよみ)pronunciation is シ, but you won't see it used very much with food words.

旨い:うま・い:savory (adjective)

旨さ:うま・さ:savoriness (noun)

旨味:うま・み:subjective level of savoriness (noun)*

旨み:うま・み:same meaning as 旨味, used more in casual conversation


Alternative ways of writing うまい do a good job to represent the primary meanings of the word:


上手い(うま・い)

上:up

手:hand

Alternatively, 上手 written without the い is pronounced じょうず, and means "skilled"

上手(じょうず)
"jōzu" – skilled; graceful

上:じょう:up; upper

手:ず:hand


美味い(うま・い)

美:beautiful

味:flavor; taste

Alternatively, 美味 written with a しい is pronounced おいしい and simply means "delicious"

*the kanji used in this word usually has different 訓読み and 音読み readings, and thus おいしい is quite irregular, albeit a very common word


If you hear the word うまい, it's a complement no matter which kanji it would be written in. Generally, 美味い is exclusively a food related word, while 上手い refers more to a skillset, or the way in which an action is performed. 旨い is very similar to 美味い, but specifically describes a flavor that is "deeply satisfying".

Section Vocabulary

訓読み(くんよみ)

"kunyomi" – the native Japanese reading of a kanji

訓:くん:instruction; native Japanese reading

読・み:よ・み:reading


音読み(くんよみ)

"onyomi" – the Chinese-derived reading of a kanji

音:おん:sound

読・み:よ・み:reading


上手い(うま・い)

"umai" – skilled; gracefull

上:up

手:hand


上手(じょうず)
"jōzu" – skilled; graceful

上:じょう:up; upper

手:ず:hand


美味い(うま・い)

"umai" – delicious

美:beautiful

味:flavor; taste


美味しい(おいし・い)

"oishii" – delicious

美:beautiful

味:flavor; taste

That wraps up the often confusing, sometimes scandalous, and always delicious role that 旨味 plays in cooking and flavor. Next we'll explore the fifth and final flavor profile, 苦味 in all of its glorious pungency. Read on to learn more!

Glossary

*some items may appear in more than one section

味(あじ)



味(あじ)

"aji" – flavor; taste


塩味(えんみ)

"enmi" – salty

塩:えん:salt

味:み:flavor; taste


甘味(かんみ)

"kanmi" – sweet

甘:かん:sweet

味:み:flavor; taste


酸味(さんみ)

"sanmi" – sour

酸:さん:acid

味:み:flavor; taste


旨味(うまみ)

"umami" – savory

旨:うま:savory; skilled; great

味:み:flavor; taste


苦味(にがみ)

"nigami" – bitter

苦:にが:bitter

味:み:flavor; taste


香り(かおり)

"kaori" – aromatic; fragrance


舌触り(したざわり)

"shita-zawari" – mouth feel; texture of a food

舌:した:tongue

触り:ざわり:to touch



料理(りょうり)– Cooking



料理(りょうり)

"ryōri" – cooking

料:りょう:materials; fee

理:り:logic; reason; arrangement


和食(わしょく)

"Washoku" – Japanese cuisine

和:わ:Japanese style; harmony

食:しょく:eat; food


味付け(あじつけ)

"aji-tsuke" – flavor development

味:あじ:flavor; taste

付け:つけ:to add; to join; to fix


調味料(ちょうみりょう)

"chō-mi-ryō" – condiments

調:ちょう:tune; tone; arrange

味:み:flavor; taste

料:りょう:materials; fee


量(りょう)

"ryō" – amount


濃・い(こ・い)

"koi" – strong; dark; potent


小皿(こざら)

"kozara" – small plate for dipping sauce

小:こ:small

皿:ざら:plate


焼き(やき)

"yaki" – grill (noun form)

焼・き:や・き


定食屋(ていしょくや)

定:てい:planned; determined

食:しょく:meal; food

屋:や:shop; seller; dealer


食材料(しょくざいりょう)

"shokuzai-ryō"– ingredients

食:しょく:food; eat

材:ざい:lumber

料:りょう:materials


炒め(いため)

"itame" – stir fry; saute (noun form)


台所(だいどころ)

"dai-dokoro" – kitchen

台:だい:pedestal; a stand; counter for machines

所:どころ:place


板(いた)

"ita" – board


柳刃包丁(やなぎばほうちょう)

"yanagi-ba hōchō" – special knife for cutting boneless sushi and sashimi

柳:やなぎ:willow

刃:ば:blade

"hōchō" – knife

包:ほう:wrap; conceal

丁:ちょう:tools; street; ward


ラーメン屋(らーめんや)

"ramen-ya" – a ramen restaurant

屋:や:shop; store; dealer


定食(ていしょく)

"teishoku" – set meal

定:てい:determined; decided

食:しょく:meal; eat


鍋(なべ) 

"nabe" – pot; kettle


スーパー

"sūpā" – supermarket


お椀(おわん)

"o-wan" – small serving bowl

椀:わん:wooden bowl



食べ物(たべもの)– Food



食べ物(たべもの)

"tabemono" – food

食べ:たべ:food; eat

物:もの:thing; object


野菜(やさい)

"yasai" – vegetable

野:や:plains; field; rustic

菜:さい:vegetables; greens


果物(くだもの)

"kudamono" – fruit

果:くだ:fruit; reward

物:もの:thing; object


きゅうり *kanji very obscure and almost never used

"kyūri" – cucumber


動物(どうぶつ)

"dōbutsu" – animals

動:どう:move; motion

物:ぶつ:thing; object


肉(にく)

"niku" – meat; flesh


牛肉(ぎゅうにく)

"gyū niku" – beef

牛:ぎゅう:beef; cow

肉:にく:meat; flesh


鶏もも(とりもも)

"torimomo" – chicken thigh

鶏:とり:chicken

もも:thigh


玉子(たまご)

"tamago" – egg(s)

玉:たま:ball

子:ご:child; seed


卵焼き(たまごやき)

"tamago-yaki" – Japanese rolled omelette

卵:たまご:egg(s)   *same meaning as 玉子, represented by one kanji

焼・き:や・き:to grill; to roast


刺身(さしみ)

"sashimi" – raw fish

刺:さ・し:pierce; stab

身:み:body


海鮮(かいせん)

"kaisen" – seafood

海:かい:ocean; sea

鮮:せん:fresh; vivid; clear; brilliant


ご飯(ごはん)

"gohan" – rice; meal

ご:御:honorific marker denoting something deserving of respect

飯:はん:meal; boiled rice


豚肉のしょうが焼き(ぶたにくのしょうがやき)

"buta-niku no shōgayaki" – stir-fried pork in ginger


豚肉(ぶたにく)

"buta niku" – pork

豚:ぶた:pork; pig

肉:にく:meat; flesh


しょうが(生姜)

"shōga" – ginger

しょう:生:raw; life

が:姜:ginger


海鮮(かいせん)

"kaisen" – seafood

海:かい:ocean; sea

鮮:せん:fresh; vivid; clear; brilliant


海鮮丼(かいせんどん)

"kaisen don" – bowl of seafood over rice

海:かい:ocean; sea

鮮:せん:fresh; vivid; clear; brilliant

丼:どん:bowl


ニンニク(にんにく、蒜)

"nin-niku" – garlic


フルーツ

"furūtsu" – fruit

*Alt. 果物(くだもの)

果:くだ:fruit; reward

物:もの:thing; object


乳製品(にゅうせいひん)

"nyū sei-hin" – dairy products

乳:にゅう:milk; breasts

製:せい:manufactured; made in...

品:ひん:goods


カリカリ

"kari kari" – crunchy


唐揚げ(からあげ)

"kara-age" – fried chicken

唐:から:T'ang, China

揚げ:あげ:fried


こってり

"kotteri" – thick; rich; heavy


豚骨ラーメン(とんこつらーめん)

"tonkotsu ramen" – pork bone broth ramen

豚:とん:pork; pig

骨:こつ:bone; skeleton


魚(さかな)

"sakana" – fish


寿司(すし)

"sushi" – anything made with vinegared rice

寿:す:longevity

司:し:director


酢飯(すめし)

酢:す:vinegar

飯:めし:meal; boiled rice


たれ(垂れ)

"tare" – sauce (particularly a mirin or soy-based sauce)

垂れ・る:たれ・る:to droop; to drip down; to hang down


おつまみ(お摘み)

"otsumami" – snack; side dish (eaten while drinking alcohol)

摘・む:つま・む: to pick; to pluck


しゃぶしゃぶ

"shabu shabu" – thinly sliced meat boiled with vegetables and dipping sauce


みそ汁(味噌しる)

"miso shiru" – miso soup

み:味:flavor; taste

そ:噌:robust

汁:しる:soup; juice


さけ(鮭)

"sake" – salmon

*often pronounced with a soft "sh" sound


さば(鯖)

"saba" – mackerel


まぐろ(鮪)

"maguro" – tuna


ぶり(鰤)

"buri" – Japanese amberjack (species of yellowtail)


ピーマン

"pīman" – green pepper


さつま芋(さつまいも)

"satsuma-imo" – Japanese sweet potato

芋:いも:potato


天ぷら(てんぷら)

"tenpura" – batter fried foods

天:てん:heavens; sky; imperial


青じそ(あお紫蘇)

"aojiso" – perilla leaves

青:あお:blue

紫:じ:purple

蘇:そ:revivded

*green and tasty – neither blue, nor purple, and certainly not revived


ねぎ

"negi" – onion


椎茸(しいたけ)

"shītake" – Japanese mushroom variant

椎:しい:oak; mallet

茸:たけ:mushroom


にら

"nira" – garlic chives



塩味(えんみ)– Salty



塩(しお)

"shio" – salt


塩っぱ・い:しょっぱ・い:salty (adjective)

塩っぱ・さ:しょっぱ・さ:saltiness (noun)

塩味:えん・み:subjective level of saltiness (noun)


塩分(えんぶん)

"enbun" – salt content; The amount of sodium in a food

塩:えん:salt

分:ぶん:portion


醤油(しょうゆ)

"shōyu" – soy sauce

醤:しょう:a kind of miso

油:ゆ:oil


みそ(味噌)*primarily written in kana

"miso" – fermented soybean paste

み:味:flavor; taste

そ:噌:robust


赤味噌(あかみそ)

"aka miso" – red miso paste

赤:あか:red

味:み:flavor; taste

噌:そ:robust



甘味(かんみ)– Sweet


甘い:あま・い:sweet (adjective)

甘さ:あま・さ:sweetness (noun)

甘味:かん・み:subjective level of sweetness (noun)*

甘み:あま・み:same meaning as 甘味, used more in casual conversation


みりん(味醂)*primarily written in kana

"mirin" – Japanese cooking wine

み:味:flavor; taste

りん:醂:bleach in water


砂糖(さとう)

"satō" – sugar

砂:さ:sand

糖:とう:sugar


糖分(とうぶん)

糖:とう:sugar

分:ぶん:portion


酒(さけ)

"sake" – Japanese rice wine


砂糖(さとう)

"satō" – sugar

砂:さ:sand

糖:とう:sugar


優しい(やさしい)

"yasashii" – gentle; kind

優し・い:やさし・い


蜂蜜(はちみつ)

"hachimitsu" – honey

蜂:はち:bee; wasp; hornet

蜜:みつ:honey; nectar


黒糖(こくとう)

"kokutō" – unrefined brown sugar

黒:こく:black

糖:とう:sugar



酸味(さんみ)– Sour


酸っぱい:すっぱ・い:sour; acidic (adjective)

酸っぱさ:すっぱ・さ:sourness; acidity (noun)

酸味:さん・み:subjective level of sourness (noun)*

酸っぱみ:すっぱ・み:same meaning as 酸味, used more in casual conversation


腐ってる(くさってる)

"kusatteru" – rotting; rotten

腐る:くさる:to rot; to go bad; to decay; to spoil


酒(さけ)

"sake" – Japanese rice wine


酸っぱい(すっぱい)

"suppai" – sour


梅干し(うめぼし)

"umeboshi" – pickled plum

干し:うめ:plum

干し:ぼし:dry; parch


漬け物(つけもの)

"tsukemono" – pickled foods

漬:つけ:pickling; soak

物:もの:thing; object


紅しょうが(べに生姜)

"beni shōga" – pickled red ginger

紅:べに:crimson; deep red

しょう:生:raw; life

が:姜:ginger


酢(す)

"su" – vinegar


柑橘(かんきつ)

"kankitsu" – citrus

柑:かん:citrus; orange

橘:きつ:mandarin orange


ポン酢(ぽんず)

"ponzu" – a citrus-based Japanese sauce similar to soy sauce


すだち

"sudachi" – a species of Japanese citrus, green in color


ゆず(柚子)

"yuzu" – a species of Japanese citrus, yellow in color

ゆ:柚:citron

ず:子:child


旨味(うまみ)– Umami (Savory)



旨味(うまみ)

"umami" – savory; savoriness

旨:うま:delicious; skilled

味:み:flavor; taste


だし(出汁)

"dashi" – a Japanese broth made from fish and kelp

だ:出:to come out of

し:汁:soup; juice


上手い(うま・い)

"umai" – skilled; gracefull

上:up

手:hand


上手(じょうず)
"jōzu" – skilled; graceful

上:じょう:up; upper

手:ず:hand


美味い(うま・い)

"umai" – delicious

美:beautiful

味:flavor; taste


美味しい(おいし・い)

"oishii" – delicious

美:beautiful

味:flavor; taste


昆布(こんぶ)

"konbu" – edible Japanese kelp, usually dehydrated

昆:こん:descendants; insect

布:ぶ:linen; cloth


出汁(だし)

"dashi" – soup; broth

出・る:で・る:to give off, leave, or let out

汁:しる:soup, juice, or broth


つゆ

"tsuyu" – pre-made bottled broth


白だし(しろ出汁)

"shiro dashi" – white broth

白:しろ:white

だ:出:to come out of

し:汁:soup; broth


powdered fish stock, such as (NIBOSHI???))



味の素(あじのもと)

"Aji no Moto" – lit. "the beginning of flavor"; brand name for MSG establish by founder and scientist Dr. Kikunae Ikeda

味:あじ:

素:もと:


鰹節(かつおぶし)

"katsuo-bushi" – sliced dried bonito

鰹:かつお:bonito

節:ぶし:season; period; occasion


煮干し(にぼし)

"niboshi" – small dried sardines

煮:に:boil

干・し:ぼ・し:dried


苦味(にがみ)– Bitter


苦い(にがい)

"nigai" – bitter


注意(ちゅうい)

"chūi" – CAUTION

注:ちゅう:concentration; notes; to pour into

意:い:idea; mind; thought


危険(きけん)

"kiken" – danger; hazard

危:き:dangerous; fear

険:けん:steep place; sharp eyes; precipitous


毒性(どくせい)

"dokusei" – toxic; poisonous

毒:どく:poison; germ

性:せい:essential nature; gender


辛味(からみ)

"karami" – spiciness (subjective)

辛:から:spicy

味:み:flavor


油(あぶら)– Fats & Oils


バター(ばたー)

"batā" – ...butter


加塩バター(かえんばたー)

"ka-en batā" – salted butter

加:か:add; join; include

塩:えん:salt


無塩バター(むえんばたー)

"mu-en batā" – unsalted butter

無:む:nothing; none; void

塩:えん:salt


胡麻油(ごまあぶら)

"goma-abura" – sesame oil

胡:ご:foreign; barbarian

麻:ま:hem; flax

油:あぶら:oil


栄養(えいよう)– Nutrition


栄養(えいよう)

"eiyō" – nutrition; nutrients

栄:えい:flourish; prosperity

養:よう:foster; bring up; rear


炭水化物(たんすいかぶつ)

"tansui-kabutsu" – carbohydrates

炭:たん:charcoal

水:すい:water

化:か:change; take the form of

物:ぶつ:thing; object


蛋白質(たんぱくしつ)

"tanpaku-shitsu" – protein

蛋:たん:egg white

白:ぱく:white

質:しつ:substance; quality


脂肪質(しぼうしつ)

"shibō-shitsu" – fat

脂:し:fat; grease; lard

肪:ぼう:obese; fat

質:しつ:substance; quality


塩分(えんぶん)

"enbun" – sodium content

塩:えん:salt

分:ぶん:portion


糖分(とうぶん)

糖:とう:sugar

分:ぶん:portion


電解質(でんかいしつ)

"denkaishitsu" – electrolytes

電:でん:electricity

解:かい:unravel; untie; solve

質:しつ:substance; quality; matter



雑(ざつ)– Misc.


訓読み(くんよみ)

"kunyomi" – the native Japanese reading of a kanji

訓:くん:instruction; native Japanese reading

読・み:よ・み:reading


音読み(くんよみ)

"onyomi" – the Chinese-derived reading of a kanji

音:おん:sound

読・み:よ・み:reading


国(くに)

"kuni" – country


王(おう)

"ō" – king


総理大臣(そうりだいじん)

"sōridaijin" – prime minister

総:そう:whole; all; general

理:り:logic; reason; arrangement

大:だい:big; large

臣:じん:retainer; minister; subject


築地(つきじ)

"Tsukiji" – site of Tokyo's former wholesale fish market

築:つき:fabricate; build

地:じ:ground; earth

literally translates to "reclaimed land"


豊洲(とよす)

"Toyosu" – site of Tokyo's current wholesale fish market

豊:とよ:bountiful; abundant

洲:す:continent; sandbar; country


東京(とうきょう)

"Tōkyō" – Yes, the Tōkyō: Japan's capital

東:とう:east

京:きょう:capital


通訳者(つうやくしゃ)

"tsūyaku-sha" – interpreter

通:つう:pass through; lead to; avenue

訳:やく:translate; reason

者:しゃ:person


市場(いちば )

"ichiba" – marketplace

市:いち:market; city; town

場:ば:location; place


仲卸業者(なかおろしぎょうしゃ)

"naka-oroshi gyō-sha" – wholesalers of seafood, particularly tuna

仲:なか:relationship; go-between

卸:おろし:wholesale

業:ぎょう:business; vocation

者:しゃ:person


つまらない(詰まらない)

"tsumaranai" – boring

詰・る:つま・る:to be packed; to be full

*yep, the kanji is one of those weird ones us non-natives don't understand


世界(せかい)

"sekai" – the world; society; the universe

世:せ:society; world

世:かい:world


伝統(でんとう)

"dentō" – tradition

伝:でん:transmit; walk along; report

統:とう:overall; relationship


温泉(おんせん)

"onsen" – natural hot spring

温:おん:warm

泉:せん:spring; fountain


天国(てんごく)

"tengoku" – heaven

天:てん:heaven

国:ごく:country; nation


お化け(おばけ)

"obake" – monster

化け:ばけ:transforming; to take another form

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